In 199X, I sent a story into Marion Zimmer Bradley’s then-prestigious fantasy magazine. I eventually got back a form rejection notice with a handwritten note from the Great One herself, explaining, “Werewolves are done, over. No werewolf fics, please. Same goes for vampires.”
I take a little comfort that the Paranormal Romance explosion was a few short years away then, and it would herald a tectonic shift in reading and publishing. I love PNR for that. I hate PNR for that, and I’ll get to my reasons why soon.
Granted, my story sucked. I still have it, and yes, it does suck. But my biggest problem with that rejection letter? There were no werewolves or vampires in the story. One shapeshifter not remotely human or lupine, running around in a world that wasn’t Earth.
Fast forward two decades or so. PNR has dug itself deep into the SFF and romance readerships, and for good reason. But it’s also a victim of its own success, especially regarding shapeshifting characters.
They’re a genre unto themselves. They are an avalanche. Some are extremely well-written and fun. Some are just tedious trope-fodder. No matter what real or imagined animal/alien species they might become when they’re not slumming as humans…they all get lumped into the reader-writer-agent-publisher hivemind as…
I blogged about this a little over a year ago.
So when someone tells me “Sorry, shapeshifting is just not my passion”, I have to sympathize. I understand.
The shapeshifters of romance have stolen the thunder from the shapeshifters of SFF, in much the same way that Twilight’s glittery Vampire 3.0 trivialized into automatic parody the vampires of Victorian and Pulp days.
My own attitude as a reader has probably contributed minutely to that shift. I write a few shapeshifters, and I still can’t stop my little internal whine whenever I now see another writer’s were-creature book. Because I’m also probably thinking, “Oh god, not another werewolf story.” A terrible disservice to some amazing writers I’ve met and/or read, across the years.
So to remind myself once more: Fur + Paws + Sentience still doesn’t equal Werewolf.